Submitted to: Irrigation Business and Technology Magazine
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/1/1998
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: Interpretive Summary: Irrigation is vitally important in enhancing crop yields and stabilizing farm income, especially during drought. But irrigation requires and uses large quantities of water. In the Texas High Plains, almost all of this water comes from the Ogallala aquifer that is declining. Irrigation was shown to have tremendous economic productive returns (5:1 to 10:1), and these returns result in strong local economies and communities. Proper irrigation scheduling is one way to reduce irrigation water usage and sustain irrigation in the face of the severe and critical water supply problems. A network of automated weather stations was established for the northern Texas High Plains to acquire the necessary data to compute water usage for the major irrigated crops (corn, wheat, sorghum, cotton, peanut and soybean). This network is called the NP-PET, and PET stands for "potential evapotranspiration." The PET network has computers that nightly ycall the 10 weather stations, download the previous day's data, process th data, upload the processed and "raw" data to a central server computer that also provides public web access, and sends out 325 faxes each night to subscribers. Main subscribers include farmers, consultants and farm advisors, and irrigation districts and other irrigation companies. This information provides daily insights into crop water usage that is fundamental to making proper irrigation scheduling decisions. By making better irrigation decisions, tremendous volumes of water can be conserved and grower profits increased. This network helps to obtain the highest value for our limited water resources and enhances irrigation's value to producers and to the whole region.
Technical Abstract: Improved irrigation scheduling techniques can conserve water and enhance grower's profits by increasing crop yields and by decreasing irrigation water usage and thereby decreasing water costs. This paper describes the North Plains PET (potential evapotranspiration) Network that operates in the northern Texas High Plains region as a cooperative venture between the Texas Agricultural Extension Service, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, and the USDA-Agricultural Research Service. The PET network was designed to disseminate daily PET and ET data on irrigated crops (corn, wheat, sorghum, cotton, soybean, and peanut) produced on the High Plains of Texas. The network has 10 weather station sites. A computer network downloads daily weather data, processes the data, uploads current data onto a web site and sends about 325 faxes to subscribers. Principal subscribers are farmers, consultants and farm advisors, irrigation districts, and irrigation companies. Faxes are sent to various mass media (newspapers, TV, and radio) that further the distribution. Many other clientele use the data too through local lawn irrigation information in the newspaper. The PET information provides daily insights into crop water usage that is fundamental to making proper irrigation scheduling decisions. By making better irrigation decisions, tremendous volumes of water can be conserved and grower profits increased thereby obtaining the highest value for our limited water resources.